February 20, 1959 – First LNG Tanker arrives in England
After a 27-day voyage from Lake Charles, Louisiana, the Methane Pioneer – the world’s first liquefied natural gas tanker – arrived at the world’s first LNG terminal at Canvey Island, England. The vessel demonstrated that large quantities of LNG could be transported safely across the ocean.
The 340-foot Methane Pioneer, a converted World War II Liberty freighter, contained five 7,000-barrel aluminum tanks supported by balsa wood and insulated with plywood and urethane. Owned by Comstock Liquid Methane Corporation, the experimental ship refrigerated its cargo to minus 285 degrees Fahrenheit. The world’s first purpose-built commercial LNG carrier, the Methane Princess, began regular LNG delivery to the same Canvey Island port in June 1964.
February 20, 1993 – “Smokesax” Art has Pipeline Heart
A 63-foot-tall saxophone sculpture by Texas artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade debuted at the newly opened Billy Blues Bar & Grill in Houston. Wade transformed two 48-inch-wide steel petroleum pipeline segments into his “Smokesax,“ a free standing sculpture. Beer kegs, a Volkswagen, and assorted parts completed the blue-painted creation. The Houston City Council later deemed the oilfield pipeline saxophone to be art. Also see Oil in Art.
February 21, 1887 – Refining Process brings Riches to Rockefeller
Herman Frasch applied to patent his process for eliminating sulfur from “skunk-bearing oils.” Once an employee of Standard Oil of New Jersey, the chemist would soon be rehired by John D. Rockefeller, who owned oilfields near Lima, Ohio, that produced a thick, sulfurous oil. Rockefeller had accumulated a 40-million-barrel stockpile of the cheap, sour “Lima oil.” Standard Oil Company bought Frasch’s patent for a copper-oxide refining process to “sweeten” the oil. The desulfurized, odorless result greatly multiplied its value, making Rockefeller a fortune. Paid in Standard Oil shares and soon very wealthy, Frasch moved to Louisiana, where he patented a process for mining sulfur by injecting superheated water into wells. By 1911, he was known as the “Sulfur King.”
February 22, 1923 – First Carbon Black Factory in Texas
Texas granted its first permit for a carbon black factory to J.W. Hassel & Associates in Stephens County. It had been discovered that carbon black increased the durability of rubber used in tires.
Modern carbon black, which looks like soot, is produced by controlled combustion of petroleum products, both oil and natural gas. It is used in rubber and plastic products, printing inks and coatings. Automobile tires were white until B.F. Goodrich Company in 1910 discovered that adding carbon black to the vulcanizing process improved strength and durability. An early Goodrich supplier was the Binney & Smith Company, maker of Carbon Black and Oilfield Crayons.
February 23, 1906 – Flaming Kansas Well makes Headlines
A small town in southeastern Kansas found itself making headlines when a natural gas well erupted into flames after a lightning strike. The 150-foot burning tower could be seen at night for 35 miles.
Drilled by the New York Oil and Gas Company, the well became a tourist attraction. Newspapers as far away as Los Angeles regularly updated their readers as technologies of the day struggled to extinguish the highly pressurized well, “which defied the ingenuity of man to subdue its roaring flames.”
Postcards were printed of the Caney well, which took five weeks to smother using a specially designed and fabricated steel hood. Learn more about Caney’s famed oilfield in Kansas Gas Well Fire.
February 23, 1942 – Japanese Submarine shells California Oil Refinery
Less than three months after the start of World War II, a Japanese submarine attacked a refinery and oilfield near Los Angeles. The shelling caused little damage but created the largest mass sighting of UFOs ever in American history.
Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-17 fired armor-piercing shells at the Bankline Oil Company refinery in Ellwood City, California. The shelling north of Santa Barbara continued for 20 minutes before I-17 escaped into the night. It was the first Axis attack on the continental United States of the war. Learn more about 1942 panic of the “Battle of Los Angeles” in Japanese Sub attacks Oilfield.
February 24, 1938 – First Nylon Bristle Toothbrush goes on Sale
The Weco Products Company of Chicago, Illinois, “Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft” toothbrush went on sale – the first to use synthetic nylon developed three years earlier by a former Harvard professor working at a DuPont research laboratory in New Jersey.
“Until now, all good toothbrushes were made with animal bristles,” noted a 1938 Weco Products advertisement in Life magazine. “Today, Dr. West’s new Miracle-Tuft is a single exception. It is made with EXTON, a unique bristle-like filament developed by the great DuPont laboratories, and produced exclusively for Dr. West’s.”
Americans would soon be brushing their teeth with nylon bristle toothbrushes, declared the New York Times. These “Exton” toothbrushes were the first commercial use of the petroleum product nylon, a synthetic polymer. Pricing its toothbrushes at 50 cents each (more than $8.25 today), Weco Products guaranteed “no bristle shedding.”
Recommended Reading: The Natural Gas Revolution: At the Pivot of the World’s Energy Future (2013); Herman Frasch -The Sulphur King (2013); The B.F. Goodrich Story Of Creative Enterprise 1870-1952 (2010); Caney, Kansas: The Big Gas City (1985); The Battle of Los Angeles, 1942: The Mystery Air Raid (2010); Enough for One Lifetime: Wallace Carothers, Inventor of Nylon (1996).
Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. Support our energy education mission with a contribution today. Contact [email protected] for membership information. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.
The post This Week in Petroleum History, February 18 to February 24 appeared first on American Oil & Gas Historical Society.